British Mean Time

One of the things that we are hot on in the UK is people keeping to time.  We are a very busy nation so time is carefully allocated. A Spanish friend told me that when she goes home, people ask to come round for the evening and she responds now in a very British way, I would love to see you, I can do coffee between 11 and 1. She hasn’t got whole evenings to hang out any more.James writes here in a very funny way about the difference between African time and British time.

British Mean Time

I love the stories coming through on TGIUK as they give us an insight into aspects of British culture in a way that is not easy to understand when new to the UK. One of the things I find particularly interesting is the concept of “British” time.

When you arrange a meeting with an English person and agree a time (say 2pm), the expectation is that you will be there on time. If for any reason you are going to be late then the norm is that you phone ahead to let the person know that you are running late and advice on the revised time of arrival – in effect,  punctuality is the essence of British life.

Contrast this with other parts of the world such as Africa, South America and the Asian sub continent where the issue of time is shall we say more “elastic”. In Zimbabwe for example, there is this concept of “Shona” time. The Shona time is not unique to Zimbabwe. If you are invited to a party and it’s supposed to start at 9pm and end at 1am then the chances are that it will end in the early hours of the morning (following day). Should you have the temerity to arrive on time your host will be wondering why you are there – as your host will not be ready for the event! Even worse they will wonder why you are so eager to eat their food – they will be wondering if you hadn’t got anything better to do with your time than to disturb them at what for them is an ungodly hour – never mind the fact that the invitation said 9pm! You could even become the talk of the party! A more appropriate time of arrival is to come about an hour or two late. To be fashionable, you might even arrive three or four hours late! Now contrast this with an English party. If it’s supposed start at 9pm and finish at 11pm, you can be sure that it will finish by 11pm sharp. If you manage to get there fashionable late, you will be surprised to find that the party is all over with your host nicely tucked up in bed or if it’s a public venue, the venue will be tidied up and no one in sight!

The maxim of this blog is that irrespective of which part of the world you come from you need to be mindful of the British mean time and ensure that at all times you are punctual for your appointments – to avoid embarrassment and/or disappointment.

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